The term Big Data has become one of the buzzwords in travel technology over the past two years. It was coined to describe “a lot of data”, hence datasets that are beyond the capabilities of a typical database in terms of size and overall costs. In addition big data describes the techniques used for the extraction and interpretation of meaning from it.
Application of big data in travel & tourism
The areas of application for big data in tourism are plentiful and are growing with the advancements in technological capabilities and computing power. Especially in the field of website analytics, big data is playing a key role. For instance the detailed recording and analysis of visitor paths and individual mouse movements in real-time of tens-of-thousands of visitors, allows companies to gain unparalleled insights into what users are doing when they are on a page. In turn, when meaning is added to the results, this knowledge can be used to change bottom line impact, e.g. by enhancing the conversion funnel. Only a few years ago, storing and computing such amounts of data would have been unaffordable for most companies. But as storage capabilities improve, keeping every last byte of data will become more and more affordable
The holy grail of big data analysis
This opens up new and unprecedented opportunities for travel companies. Over the coming years we will witness a big-data driven change of the ways how consumers are marketed and sold to travel products. One of the most powerful developments in this regard is the shift from segmentation to deep personalisation. With the advent of CRM tools in the early 1990’s travel companies started to built ever refined customer segments in order to increase the relevancy of targeted marketing campaigns Big data enabled deep personalisation however, would allow a travel website to recommend a traveller a specific hotel, based on his/hers previous trips, personal preferences and specific wants.
A gaze into the future
While personalisation is considered the holy grail, there is a plethora of other applications for big data. Location based services such as Foursquare, or even geo tags on picture services such as Instagram provide an array of data about individuals. Coupled with geofencing technologies (i.e. the process of knowing when a traveller is near a certain attraction of location) opens up a variety of opportunities for location and context based marketing.
Privacy and consumer acceptance
However, one of the main concerns behind big data developments are consumers privacy concerns. While consumer appreciate personalised and relevant product offerings, companies have to accept the personal boundaries and not be intrusive. Especially In light of the recent NSA scandal, data security and privacy has been brought back into the eye of the public.
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